Ne­gri be­lieve they are still in the tro­phy chase

New Straits Times - - Sport -

NE­GRI Sem­bi­lan fans have had lit­tle rea­son to be cheer­ful since the team’s rel­e­ga­tion from the Su­per League in 2013 but that could change to­day.

With Ne­gri lead­ing the Premier League stand­ings and on course for a re­turn to the top-flight, coach Asri Ning­gal’s side also have a chance at lift­ing their first piece of sil­ver­ware since win­ning the 2011 Malaysia Cup.

All they need to do is over­come Su­per League ti­tle chasers Pa­hang, who travel to Paroi pro­tect­ing a 1-0 lead from the semi-fi­nal, first leg in Kuan­tan.

Asri is cer­tainly count­ing on home sup­port to get past Pa­hang and reach the May 20 fi­nal in Shah Alam.

“With the sup­port of tens of thou­sands of sup­port­ers, I be­lieve the play­ers are ready to give it their all,” said Asri, look­ing to add to Ne­gri’s FA Cup wins in 2003 and 2010.

“We still have 90 min­utes to play and we have pre­pared well for the match, even though we had to deal with a few in­juries.

“Ne­gri have not been at this stage of the tour­na­ment for a long time and any­thing can still hap­pen dur­ing the game so we must make the most of our chances.”

Asri could wel­come his top scorer Bruno Cas­tan­heira back from in­jury af­ter the Brazil­ianJa­panese for­ward re­turned to train­ing this week, hav­ing missed two matches.

Cas­tan­heira’s ab­sence was greatly felt in a 1-1 draw with Armed Forces in the Premier League last weekend, a re­sult which stretched Ne­gri’s win­less run to five matches, in­clud­ing three suc­ces­sive league draws.

The striker’s re­turn means Asri can re­turn to his pre­ferred lineup with Farderin Kadir mak­ing way as Cas­tan­heira links up with Marko Simic, Lee Tuck and Khairul An­war Shahrudin in the search for goals.

Pa­hang will also be able to un­leash Gam­bian for­ward Mo­hamadou Su­mareh, who missed the first leg through sus­pen­sion, as Dol­lah Salleh looks to win the FA Cup as a coach for the first time since 2005 when he was in charge of Se­lan­gor.

That re­mains Dol­lah’s only suc­cess in the tour­na­ment af­ter play­ing in the fi­nal just once in 1990 when Se­lan­gor were beaten 4-2 by Perak in the in­au­gu­ral FA Cup.

Dol­lah will be tempted to make a few changes af­ter watch­ing his side ca­pit­u­late to a 3-2 de­feat by Ke­lan­tan at home in a Su­per League match last weekend.

The Pa­hang de­fence con­ceded al­most im­me­di­ately each time Matheus Alves scored to even the scores, a sit­u­a­tion Dol­lah said should not have hap­pened.

“When we were at 2-2, we should have done a bet­ter job of fo­cus­ing and de­fend­ing,” he said af­ter the match which dented their ti­tle as­pi­ra­tions.

Among the play­ers who could re­turn to first XI are striker Chinedu Bright Dike and mid­fielder Kiko Insa while em­ploy­ing a three-man back­line, which Dol­lah has done once this sea­son, is also an op­tion.

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